Nearly every white professional man in Arkansas who talks to me about politics these days expresses alarm that Hillary Clinton might become the Democratic presidential nominee and president.
Some of this reveals simple sexism. One guy says white men favor the black man over the white woman because they've never tried to live with a black man.
But part of this comes less from generic gender bias than a specific aversion to the Hillary personality, which can project a certain unpleasantness.
It was, I remind you, an intellectual and liberal woman out of Harvard who called Clinton a “monster.”
Then there's Larry David, who perhaps does not qualify as your typical white guy, or typical anything. He's the comic genius who co-created “Seinfeld” and now writes and stars in the perversely brilliant “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO.
David's liberal credentials ought to be good enough. He's friends with Clinton cultists Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, or was. Actually, I read the other day that Danson said he would never appear on David's show again. But two press accounts related that Danson made that remark with “mock horror.”
It turns out Larry David has a blog. There is the matter of his recent post, which reflects with obvious hyperbole a vibe some get from Hillary.
He writes that Obama ought to produce an ad with a montage of Hillary's “Syballish” personalities.
Then David writes: “How is it that she became the one who's perceived as more equipped to answer that 3 a.m. call than the unflappable (Barack) Obama? He, with the ice in his veins, who doesn't panic when he's losing or get too giddy when he's winning, who's as comfortable in his own skin as she's uncomfortable in hers. There have been times in this campaign when she seemed so unhinged that I worried she'd actually kill herself if she lost ... A few weeks ago, I started to feel sorry for her ... Let her win already. Who cares? It's not worth it ...
“And then I saw the ad. I watched, transfixed, as she took the 3 a.m. call. And I was afraid, very afraid. Suddenly, I realized the last thing this country needs is that woman anywhere near a phone. I don't care if it's 3 a.m. or 10 p.m. or any other time. I don't want her talking to Putin, I don't want her talking to Kim Jong Il, I don't want her talking to my nephew. She needs a long rest.”
Maybe it was all for comic effect, with tongue in cheek. But I think what David captured — for real or in spoof — is a sense that Hillary seems to want it too much.
Back home, it occurs to me that several of these alarmed Arkansas men have been physicians, thus doubly worried about a Hillary presidency. Doctors, if I might risk another generality, tend to harbor an exponential disdain for Clinton because of that health care reform matter from 1993.
Doctors or otherwise, these Arkansas men almost always say superficially pleasant things about Obama. But they know little about him and see him merely as the one who isn't Hillary.
They will be John McCain voters in November, I'd wager, regardless of the Democratic option.
Much of our politics is about aversion and fear. That's especially true at the presidential level.
Hillary is the lightning rod for most of that now. Obama, veiled in that context, seems benign.
But if Obama becomes the nominee and removes Hillary as his hate shield, American voters who still confuse Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and who still think we went into Iraq to fight terrorists, will re-forward those e-mails spreading ugly, false and ignorant rumors about Obama's religion and heritage and very allegiance to this country.
So when these men — these doctors and others — implore me to assure them that Hillary will not become their president, I, alas, cannot.
I tell them they'd best hope the super-delegates go with Obama, because, otherwise, it's apt to be “Madam President.” If Clinton wins Pennsylvania by 10 points, then gets and wins do-overs in Michigan and Florida, all possible, those super-delegates will go all wobbly. Her chances against McCain are, at worst, even.
And there you have the makings of the white professional man's nightmare.